If there's one game that appears to be taking over the Eurogamer Expo showfloor here in London today, it's Mirror's Edge. You can't miss it, what with its motion-sick graphics and gaudy colour pallete. And the fact it's the first thing you see when you come through the door.
The code here's a one-level demo in single-player. Get full impressions after the link.
EA DICE's Mirror's Edge looks like no other game on the market. The first-person free-runner's Athens-bright, key pathways for protagonist Faith to follow splashed in red, hints in orange and random blues. There's no grey in sight. For anything related to "first-person" and "games," this is the first anomaly.
The second is a bit broader: it's nothing like any other first-person action game ever made.
The code at Eurogamer Expo is a single level, set in the "financial district, 1.58pm."
You are Faith, a future postwoman delivering a parcel men with guns want to stop. You start on a roof. Ahead are more roofs. It's traditional console FPS controls, so left stick moves, right stick looks. There's a dot-reticle in the middle of the screen. We run forward, down a ledge, off the roof and die.
This happens four times before we work out that L1 is jump. X is interact. To jump and grab you press L1 the X. Trial by error, and all that.
Over some solar panels and a fence, then down a rope slide. We're missing out all the dying involved here. There's a lot of dying.
The game feels and sounds perfectly solid. When Faith's feet hit the bottom of the slide the audio crunches. The "light" graphics you're now used to seeing belie a gritty, hard adventure from first impressions.
Walking over a thin pipe, balancing with Sixaxis tilting. Fall off and die twice. A wall-run across a gap. Fail twice, falling into a pit and having to retake steps to retry. It's not easy.
There's a massive jump next, from a red ramp with a run-up, the difference here being that the distance is impossible, and you have to grab onto a drainpipe on the opposite wall. It's not immediately obvious what to do, and we watched a ton of people getting stuck here. Even after you make the grab, you then have to jump to the left to another pipe before being able to climb up.
We only realise this after the guy sitting next to us tells us how to proceed.
Kick through a door. Some jumping around in a corridor to reach a vent, again taking tree or four attempts. Through the air vent and dropping into a room full of guards. The music ramps up, the guns come out, and we're off. Up stairs, a man shouting over a receiver to get out. Through a door. Stuck. Get shot to death.
Repeat. And again. The man sitting next to us has to point out where the exit door is. We kick it open and go back out onto the roof. The draw distance is huge and it looks beautiful, no doubt. Slide under some rails (L2) then another massive jump.
Then it happens. The controls click.
We're over and under things faster than a bipolar rabbit in a pogo-stick convention. We're fighting. Now we're dead again. Combat is a whole new set of skills. We get to grips with punching (R2) but that's about it. When we're watching other people play later on, the game offers up advice during loading screens on isolating enemies and not taking on groups.
There's also a note about doing wall-kicks to disarm guards. At the time, we just ran on.
Another jump. A woman above us calls for the parcel and it gets thrown up. Then a run to the end of a building to jump onto the rail of a waiting helicopter. The chopper swings round to show Faith hanging down and we've escaped.
Is it good? Appears to be. It's fucking hard, and we're pretty sure we're not being slow. There's some pixel-perfect jumping even in the small demo here, and the controls aren't as fluid as we thought they'd be. In fact, we never actually expected it to be anywhere near as challenging as it obviously is.
That said, once you "get" the L1-X combo, everything starts to fall into place and the potential shines through, but the indication from our time with the game here is that it's going to be a different beast from the one we expected.
No bad thing. It's out next month.